A Dhampus Kind of Day: Feb. 11

(Note:  some passing interest in mountains is helpful when reading this report.)

At 7:00 in the morning, I am already out on the balcony taking in the crystal clear morning light on the peaks. I ask Yuri, a Russian guy living in Eugene, Oregon to take a portrait of me, but only half my face is visible in the direct horizontal light.

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A dream lingers of the song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” which I intend to learn on the flute later. Thank you..but why now and here?  Because I have to respond to the question where I’m from at least five times a day?

Breakfast comes early at 7:30, which I eat too quickly. I want to get up on the hilltop behind the hotel to see the whole continuous scenario of valleys, terraced fields, distant Pokhara and Fewa Lake, then the Sarankot ridge and valley leading to Dhampus and so on to the Himal.

By 8:15, I am hiking up the hill and find a spot to marvel in silence. Photos get taken of the terraces far below, still early enough and with little wind.

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By 9:00, I’ve found a spot to meditate, although having a full stomach is a detriment and necessitates a shift of focus to my head and nose instead of the center of being in what the Japanese call one’s hara. I open my eyes periodically to find Annapurna (south) glowing white in the morning light. “Sit like a mountain,” is the admonition to practitioners in Zen and Vajrayana Buddhism. And perhaps by sitting cross-legged with hands neatly folded and head touching the sky, my body posture assumes that form. I sit long, get tired, but in the process become very very still. The morning is my ally.

By 9:45, I have been awake and attentive, have feasted on a breakfast of eggs, Tibetan bread, oatmeal, something resembling milk coffee, have climbed a steep hill and sat zazen in a steadfast manner, and am thus ready for a nap. Don’t laugh!

By 10:20, I feel balanced, rested and sane… simultaneously in the Himalayas but also spiraling inward. I move to a new spot that has a bit of shade.

11:00 and time to acknowledge and pay tribute
to the sheer physicality
of each moment of my life.

Other than getting me in position so I can perceive what is obviously a small fragment of all that is here, my mind has little to do with being fully present.  For that, the body and its sustaining breath is the path to follow.

Funny how that works.

11:30, and a south breeze arrives, moves me off the hilltop and into shade and shelter.

At 12:00 I notice Machapuchare has a force-field buffering clouds building around Annapurna. Time and again they approach fast and determined, then dissipate quickly in what must be a high-pressure ridge of air warmed from Macha P’s southern face.

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For three and a half hours I have borne witness to a wide range of shadows and light, each expression subtly transforming the mountains. Their steady yet shifting appearances yield an enthralling fascination that has kept me engaged. But I must move out of the wind and sun, and see what else the day might hold. I stay on the ridge until I run out of trail, then wind my way down to a courtyard built around what surely used to be a huge tree in the center, rock slab seating all the way around. It looks familiar and was probably a major rest stop on the trail to Annapurna base camp. Now the sun dominates and washes over everything.

I find the trail heading back down to the road and will follow it tomorrow, as a Nepali mountain guide did that same morning, to reach the connection back to Sarankot and Pokhara. Four schoolgirls on lunch-time break are sitting on a wall, messing with each other’s hair, and I walk by at first, then see the photo in my mind of them posing w/ Macha P. in the background. And that’s exactly how it turns out, to their peals of laughter and comments.

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Lunch at Greenland Restaurant and Lodge, fabulous rooftop terrace with prayer flags and warm sun behind me and the Big Three in front: South Annapurna, Machapuchare, and Lamjung Himal. The lodge is spotlessly clean in its buildings and grounds, yet has those stupid bars over all the windows that compromises any view.

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My final act of the day after a leisurely nap in the sun is to hike up the trail to the government’s trekking checkpoint and ask if I can continue w/out a permit to a ridge about another kilometer or so, on the route to Gandrung and Ana P. base camp. Sure no problem…but won’t you buy a piece of turquoise or lapus lazuli from a man who claims to be from Mustang? I no doubt am an idiot because I actually look, select two items (not the turquoise, if it was actually that) and pay him $10 U.S., which makes him happy. He asks if I’m happy and I say of course I am, after a richly nuanced day like today.

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Now 8:10 p.m. and I will soon head outside one last time to set up a camera and try to get a moonlit portrait of Ana P. gleaming white. Dreams will follow.

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